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A King George County couple that raised tropical fish as a hobby have opened KGTropicals.
John Hudson and Lisa Conroy breed and sell African cichlids (above) and other tropical fish at their King George store.
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By Cathy Jett
A KING GEORGE County couple has turned a hobby into a new business that's going, well, swimmingly.
John Hudson and Lisa Conroy breed African cichlids and sell them and a South American variety of the tropical fish at KGTropicals in the town of King George.
"They are the most popular freshwater fish [for aquariums]," said Hudson. "They display colors that will rival saltwater fish. Plus, there's a huge variety of them, so you can constantly add new ones."
Customers who walk into their recently opened shop at 9254 Kings Highway are usually stopped in their tracks by the two huge tanks on either side of the store, he said. Swimming in one are brightly patterned African cichlids, which can grow up to 6 inches in length. The other contains several of the larger South American red devils.
"People usually go to see the red ones because they have a cute face," Hudson said. "They look friendly, but the males can be aggressive."
KGTropicals also has rows of racks holding smaller aquariums that contain about 150 different varieties of cichlids. Hudson and Conroy breed 25 of them,
"Our preference is to buy from local breeders, but there aren't many in this area," Hudson said.
A lifelong fan of fishkeeping, he got his wife interested in the popular hobby several years ago. At first, they went for large tropical fish such as the arowana, which typically grows to around 2 to 3 feet in captivity. She bought a small one to go in his 125-gallon tank in 2010, but his larger one wasn't happy about having company.
"I put it in the tank with his, and within two hours we were back at PetSmart buying a 55-gallon tank because his was beating up on mine," Conroy said.
Soon the couple was buying more aquariums on Craigslist, and wound up with 25 to 30 in their basement. When they outgrew that space, they moved the tanks to their two-car garage.
Hudson and Conroy preferred large fish over the smaller, pretty ones until the day they had an empty tank. They stocked it with peacock cichlids that were on sale at the pet store.